Kyla Mallett’s practice consistently examines the intersection of language and culture. Often bringing together the concerns of teens, feminism, and art history, Mallett borrows from the formal aesthetics of 1960s conceptual art and applies pseudo-sociological methods of sampling and archiving to reveal alternative networks of communication within various social milieus.
Past projects have included a combined photographic and text series that revealed the desires and perceptions of suburban youth; an audio piece that embedded anonymous gossip in the gallery walls; and a video project that documented adult women telling personal stories of bullying.
In keeping with her interest in alternative, often unsanctioned, forms of dialogue, Mallett’s current project for Artspeak moves these considerations into a wider social context. Marginalia is photographic project that centres on the margin notes and graffiti found in a selection of books from the Vancouver Public Library collection. Positioning the library as an alternative archive, the artist worked with the library staff to accumulate “damaged” materials in order to reveal a transgressive system of communication that coexists with the official institutional system of the library. If the library itself is emblematic of a sanctioned literary practice, the marginalia found within the “damaged” books then becomes an unsanctioned literary practice: unruly, anti-institutional, personal, and at times offensive. At once public and private, marginalia is an attempt to make one’s mark, to pass on thoughts and opinions. In representing the marginalia in situ, alongside the official text, Mallett’s work offers a conversation between the official structure and the voices that appear in the cracks, and posits yet another cross-over dialogue between the subjects of the books that range from teen suicide to Milton’s Paradise Lost.